Any time that you obtain a job interview, you know that you need to prepare yourself, even if just a little bit. There are going to be a whole host of basic questions about you, but sometimes interviewers slip in a few tougher questions. These questions have an essential purpose for your future employer, and that is to make sure you’re a good fit for their company by getting a better sense of who you are.
The important thing you will see recurring throughout this article suggests that you should… just be honest. The trick to answering these questions about your personality is to be completely sincere. If you’re not truthful and forthright in answering these questions, your interviewer will see right through it, and that will harm your chances of being successful in landing the job.
Also, these questions can be complicated, like “How would you calculate the amount of rope to wrap around the state of Arizona?” They can feel impossible to answer, “Are you a nice person?” Or, they can feel like an all-out trick, “Are you willing to fail?” In this article, we’ll cover some of these questions and give you the tools you need to answer them effectively and land that job.
Top 10 tough interview questions At-A-Glance
- Are you willing to fail?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Explain how you dealt with a problem with a coworker in the past.
- What made you choose an online college?
- Tell me about yourself.
- How did online school change your college experience?
- What do people criticize the most about you?
- How do you perform under stress?
- Are you a nice person?
Are you willing to fail?
Nobody wants to fail! But failure is a part of life and learning. It’s hard to take criticism and admit when we are weak and have failed at the task that was put before us. When asked the question, “Are you willing to fail?” quite naturally, our instinct is to say “No Way!” But, in reality, the short answer you should always reply is “yes.” A blatant “No” can make you look stubborn, out of touch with reality, and unwilling to compromise.
The reasoning behind your potential employer’s question is to determine how you will handle a failure and find out if you can learn from your mistakes, power through, and move forward to become a better person and employee.
When the topic of failure arises, be prepared to recall an incident in which you did fail, particularly if it pertains to your career objective. Explain the situation you were in, the issue that you were trying to solve, and what didn’t work. Then, it would help if you were prepared to tell your interviewer what did work, how your solution solved the problem, and precisely what you learned from the experience.
Another tip to remember when answering a question like this is not to blame someone else. It would be best if you are always willing to take responsibility for your actions within a situation. Stating fault in someone else’s work makes you look petty and unable to handle the situation yourself. Also, prior to your interview, you should think about what “failure” you may mention. Spur-of-the-moment confessions that might have ended in disaster, especially financial mistakes, will certainly not impress your employer.
You should talk about why you are willing to fail, how it can force you to learn new ways to accomplish a task, and how your mistakes can encourage yourself, as well as fellow employees, to grow.
What is your greatest weakness?
Weakness questions are the toughest ones that you will face because in a job interview, especially for a job that you really want, most tend to stretch the truth and find a way to sugarcoat their weaknesses. Remember, employers know that all people, even themselves, have flaws. Admitting them will make you look like a more reliable person.
But, who doesn’t need a little self-improvement? Naturally, we are more than happy to toot our own horn and answer questions about how knowledgeable or personable we are, but traits or skills that we need to improve on… not so much! The fact is that… no one is perfect, and everyone can improve on something!
How do you relay your most significant weakness to an interviewer in a positive light? First of all, honesty is the best policy; however, think about a trait or skill that you would like to improve upon, and one that you know yourself that you could do better. Determine how you can communicate it, as well as state how you plan to overcome it.
In addition, choose an issue that some might consider an asset. For example, you may say, “All of my work becomes special projects to me, ones that I am continually committed to; therefore, I have a hard time of letting go or relying on someone else to follow through. I need to work more on trusting other qualified team players to continue the process.” There are many “weaknesses” that you can turn into positive situations to express an answer that your interviewer will respect and understand.
Employers do not want perfect employees; they want honest employees that will be forthcoming about the things that they can and can’t do. The only trick to these types of questions is making sure that you end them on a positive note and answering them in a way that you are not disqualifying yourself, but just reflective, open to criticism and willing to improve.
Why do you want to work here?
First of all, this is an essential question that you would want to consider before you apply for the job. You must determine for yourself if the position is your dream job or just a stepping stone to bigger and better things; either is fine by the way. But, if you feel that the position warrants your time and efforts, then, by all means, you should pursue it.
The reason that your interviewer asks the question, “Why do you want to work here?” is for two purposes. Primarily, employers prefer to hire employees that they believe are qualified and can do a good job for them. But on the flip side, employers also want to be certain that you will be happy working there as well.
So, how do you answer this question? Tell the truth! But, remember to put that positive spin on it. Perhaps you can explain that this is an opportunity for you to expand your skills, create networking in the field, or because of the possibility for growth that it will provide you. If you can express your goals and ambitions, it shows your potential employer about who you are, your values, what you have to offer them, and your tenacity.
In addition, be sure to do your research about the company. Be familiar with their values, their reputation, as well as the opportunities for advancement. Sure, you will need to start at the bottom like everyone else, but try to look at the big picture!
It is crucial to “personalize” your response to this question… no generic answers. Your knowledge of the company and position you are interviewing for will impress them, no doubt. Oh, and one more tip… don’t focus on your salary, at least not yet. Your response to this critical question should not be, “because it pays well.” There will be time to discuss money later!
How have you dealt with a coworker problem in the past?
The reason that the answer to this question is important is that maybe you have never had a problem with a coworker in the past (lucky you!) but if you say that, you might come across like you are dodging the question or that you don’t feel like you’ve ever made a mistake, etc.
The manner in which you answer the question, “How have you dealt with a coworker problem in the past?” says a lot about your personality. As first impressions are crucial, this can be a tricky one for sure.
Now, honesty is always the best policy in an interview. Still, if you’ve genuinely never encountered a problem with a coworker, there is nothing wrong with making a minor situation a little bigger than it was. However, the primary reason for the question in the first place is to see how you resolved the issue… and that should be your primary focus.
As you begin briefly explaining the situation, keep in mind the steps that should be utilized in solving conflicts, such as a calm and private conversation with the person, careful listening, respect for the other’s opinion, and a way to resolve the discrepancy or at the very least, compromise. Finally, state the results of how you handled the problem, and most importantly, how you learned from the experience. By all means, end on a positive note.
Remember never to place blame on a fellow employee or talk maliciously about them. Do not come across as arrogant or uncaring. The same holds true for previous employers.
What made you choose an online college?
It is important to note that your employer will most likely have no way of knowing that you chose to attend college online. Standard diplomas do not use the word “online” on them. Unless your college choice is specific to online learning alone, employers won’t know unless you tell them… and there is certainly no shame in it if you tell them. In fact, it could help you land the job!
Typically, the question will be, “What made you choose this college?” Whether you have attended online college or on-campus, your answer should reflect the many reasons you chose to apply to the school in the first place.
As online distance education is becoming more respected and normalized, tell your interviewer if you would like… but be prepared to say to them why you chose an online program. Your reasons for wanting to go to school online are entirely personal, and you should feel free to express them!
Some reasons you could list are that you wanted to work at your own pace, wanted to be close to your family, or wanted to stay at the job you held at the time. If you are married and/or have children, prior family commitments are the best reason for attending classes online.
What sort of message will graduating from an online college send to your prospective employer? It will tell them that you are determined, good at time-management and meeting deadlines, that you are a hard worker by holding down a job and attending school, and that you take care of your family and financial responsibilities. Who can resist an employee with those qualities?
What should you NOT say? Please don’t say that it was the only school that would accept you into their program. Even if that is so, spin it around and say that your online college was the best fit for you, and you were proud to attend there!
Tell me about yourself.
Why is this such a tough question? We know us better than anyone, but yet when someone asks this question… we freeze up! That’s not uncommon. One reason for the “caught in the headlights” look is that we just don’t know where to start, when to stop, or what the interviewer really wants to know.
Your potential employer wants to know about you, and this is one of the most direct interview questions you’ll encounter while trying to do so. Do they want to hear your life’s story? No, probably not. It is best to give your answer within the two-minute timeframe, if possible.
Explain some of your hobbies, explain your interests, touch on some things that you’re proud of that you’ve accomplished, and whatever else you think is important for an employer to know about you. You may want to mention work-related experiences that have contributed to your success and growth, especially volunteer work experience.
With any of your responses, keep it professional! Stay away from topics such as your marital status and family details, such as the number of children you have. Also, do not discuss your health issues, religious beliefs, or political affiliations. Too many personal details may work against you in determining your ability to do the job.
How did online school change your college experience?
Interviewers often will inquire about your college experience. If you do choose to tell them you attended a distance learning degree program (as opposed to an on-campus format), be prepared to express how the differences elevated your college encounter, rather than diminished it.
If this question comes up, you could talk about how it changed the ways you strategize and set your priorities, as time-management is a critical component of an online program. You could talk about how it allowed you to work on your own personal development and enhance your ability to self-motivate.
Although online students are not on-campus, you still have interaction with classmates and occasionally work on projects together. Express how your college experience taught you how to be a team player as you collaborated with like-minded individuals with the same academic goal. Tell the interviewer about how you were forced to sharpen your critical-thinking skills, be creative, and learn to communicate effectively. If you participated in volunteer work or an internship, be sure to include that information as well.
Just because you graduated from a distance learning degree program does not mean that you missed out on everything the traditional campus provides… you only participated in a different way!
What do people criticize the most about you?
Let’s face it… no one likes to be criticized; whether personally or professionally, it is a part of life. Perhaps the most critical aspect of criticism is how we react to it. The question “What do people criticize the most about you?” is another one that is designed to test if you’re adaptable and see if you have the ability to be self-critical or self-reflect. You should be truthful; however, as with other questions like this, put a positive spin on it, if at all possible.
How can you make a fault of your own positive? Actually, what other people say to criticize you may be the very thing that drives you to success. For example, some people may think you are a little pushy or impatient. In this case, the employer may view your answer as a “go-getter who likes to get things done and on time.”
Not every critique has to be so negative that it affects your ability to do your job efficiently. Ideally, it is best to tell the interviewer a weakness that does not affect your job performance. When asked this question, think of a situation in which you can mention how you overcame the criticism and succeeded in your task.
How do you perform under stress?
How do you react to being put under pressure? Everyone responds differently; however, the question itself, “How do you perform under stress?,” may really stress you out! As you are sitting there sweating bullets, you need to have an answer prepared beforehand! The reason that the employer asks this question is to glean information about how aware you are of your limitations, and how you may be able to perform in higher pressure situations that may arise.
You may reply that you are cool, calm and collected at all times, but the interviewer won’t buy it… so don’t even try it! Instead, it would help if you answered this honestly, but keep in mind that you probably don’t perform as well under stress as you might think. Science has proved time and time again that this isn’t usually the case, regardless of how people might view the situation.
An excellent way to answer this question is to lead into how you deal with stress and prioritize to avoid getting overwhelmed. You can explain how stress motivates you, how important organization and meeting deadlines are, and finally, how you continuously remind yourself of your end goals. Explain how working under pressure makes you more productive, determined, and dependable.
Employers do not need employees who are going to break under pressure or who are always passing the buck to someone else at crunch time. They appreciate those who are calm and efficient under pressure. Let them know that you take your work seriously!
Are you a nice person?
Another tricky one… “Are you a nice person?” This is very clearly a personality question, and the truth is, you may not be a nice person. There is nothing wrong with knowing that about yourself, but you have to think carefully about this answer.
To answer this question effectively, you must know what the job description requires of you. If you are a lovely person, but the job demands that you must be strict, tough and authoritative, then answering that question with a resounding “yes” may not be what the interviewer is looking for. And, on the other hand, for jobs requiring teamwork and a pleasant disposition, then a “yes” is what they are looking for.
What if you’re not sure exactly how to answer? Split it right down the middle. Explain how you are a nice person; how you are considerate of other’s feelings and how you can display empathy for others when needed. But, also express how you are not a pushover and can be firm and assertive if the task requires it.
One crucial tip to answering this is making sure that you don’t sound like a total weakling, but also that you don’t look like an arrogant jerk. Maintain your confidence, and you should do fine!